Little Golden Notebook

Where fiber art, inspiration, and words meet.

I almost titled this “Patience: an Embroidery” because that would also work as a title for this piece that I started it in 2016-2017. It was a part of my mental health journey arching up and away from almost a week in the hospital in January 2015 that I’m still not entirely ready to talk about in a blog post, but if you know me in real life and/or are brave, just ask and I’ll tell you about it.

I started this piece with navy blue felt that I cut from the back of one of my husband’s navy blue commercial knit sweater that had made a trip through the washer and dryer (his mistake, not mine). I put the felt in a hoop and began embroidering a circle of French knots with a handspun Cormo wool single that I dyed using indigo even earlier, in 2011-2012. I really enjoyed embroidering on this felt as it is denser and more stable than the commercial felt I bought for another project.

When I closed the initial circle of blue French knots, I realized finishing the piece with that yarn would be a Sisyphean/impossible task and I’d likely run out of ambition and, yes, patience and abandon it. Looking through my stash of handspun, I had pink leftovers from making my second handspun sweater, Cecelia, which is actually the Sally Cardigan by Nikol Lohr.

A close-up of the yoke of my Sally/Cecelia Cardigan

The white and pink parts of the sweater are alpaca that I had spun into a two-ply yarn and then dyed with cochineal during a natural dye class I took in 2010. The class was at The Art League of Alexandria and it was taught by Sylvia De Mar, who is a wonderful, very knowledgeable teacher!

An in-progress shot of the piece with the pink almost done

I decided to fill the circle in with the pink alpaca leftovers. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough yarn to fill the entire circle with French knots. I went back to my stash but couldn’t find any yarns that would work well, so I started thinking about other things I could finish the piece with. Sure, I could have gotten more alpaca and more cochineal, but somehow that would have been too easy and cheating somehow – I wanted this piece to use materials I have, so I started looking at non-yarn options.

A close-up of the beads I used

Fortunately, I had some iridescent seed beads in my stash that had a dark pink tone to them that matched the cochineal. Unfortunately, there were definitely not enough beads to fill in the remaining space. And here’s where I broke the rule about not buying new supplies: I ordered three shades of Japanese (MIYU brand) Delica 11/0 beads and crossed my fingers that they would match the pinks on the alpaca. The gamble paid off.

The three new tubes of beads in their tubes on top of the in-progress embroidery

I attached the beads using a beading needle and the darkest bead thread I could find. I don’t know how many I used, but they are all individually attached. The other option would have been to string a large amount of beads onto thread and then stitch them in place with another needle and thread – couching. I really couldn’t see how couching would work in the small areas I left open in the pink knots. I also knew I’d need to blend the darker beads with the light, so started from the center and worked my way out to the edges.

::Spongebob narrator voice:: many hours later …

The framed finished piece – although upside down – next to a stack of books

Voilà! I finished!

I debated my framing options and ultimately went with a big chunky wooden frame for an 8″ by 8″ picture with the glass removed. Unfortunately, my background fabric was not a perfect square but it was close enough that I could squeeze it in.

Then this piece sat patiently for months while I worked on The Flowers until I heard about the 61st Annual Woodlawn Needlework Show in Alexandria and decided to enter. I decided to turn the piece 180º and made sure it was secure in the frame and could stand up to whatever handling it would receive during the show. Well, not only did I get second place in my category (Surface Embroidery, Original Design), but I also sold the piece to a lovely woman in Maryland. When I pick it up on Friday, that will probably be the last time I see it and I’m a little sad to see it go, but really happy someone liked it enough to buy it.

Second Place!
My piece and I at the 61st Annual Woodlawn Needlework show

My experience with this embroidery has been a really positive one – even when my in-progress pictures reminded some people of a T-Rex, even while waiting for beads to show up and hoping they’d match. 10/10, will do again!

If you’d like to see more progress photos and a few embroidery-in-action videos, here is the Flickr album that you can browse.


One response to “Patience and Embroidery”

  1. Kathy Reed Avatar
    Kathy Reed

    Have I told you lately how much I love this piece? I am sure the woman who purchased this beauty will give it a good home.

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